In a recent post, I mentioned that a number of employers have come to our MA class to discuss their employment opportunities and graduate programmes. A common thread, present in all employer presentations, was a focus on the importance of multi-disciplinary team work, both on-site and virtual, and how this materialises in the day-to-day work of the instructional designer/technical writer. The capacity for independent, self-directed performance was discussed as being an important skill in this line of work, however, the ability to function at a high level within a team structure appears to take primacy in order to ensure that the bottom line is met. Technical writers and information developers rarely operate in a vacuum, their expertise lies in the provision of clarity and cogency to technical matter produced by experts in other areas. If a technical writer/instructional designer cannot access the necessary information in a consistent and ordered flow, then they are unlikely to produce documentation/instructional media that is consistent with the core values of the profession. For this reason, most technical writers/instructional designers operate within multi-disciplinary/cross-functional teams that employ an agile scrum methodology of output management.
The scrum process, which overtook the phased-deliverable, Waterfall method, operates in increments, called sprints. A sprint will usually take somewhere between one and three weeks to complete, at which point an element of the overall product is fully developed and another sprint can begin to address the next feature of the product. This method is far less costly than its predecessor (waterfall) and results in less chance of a product reaching completion with an element or feature that is not fit for purpose.
Active engagement by technical writers/instructional designers in all stages of the scrum process ensures that appropriate documentation or media is incorporated into the overall product from the outset and is not merely a disembodied, add-on. Knowledge transfer by all parties in the scrum process leads to meaningful scrum engagements. The best questions are asked and areas of expertise are demystified – developers learn about writing and writers learn about development. The result of an agile scrum team that incorporates technical writers/instructional designers should be a respectful, cohesive unit, with a shared understanding of all aspects of product or service development.
So there you are, the agile scrum: not as dangerous as it sounds!